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Observing the city from on high.  Bowery Savings Bank.

Observing the city from on high. Bowery Savings Bank. All photos by Julie Seyler.


Sometimes I pretend that I am a tourist in Manhattan. I go for a walk with my camera looking for things that I would notice if I were on vacation in an unknown city. I might wander down Second Avenue or take the bus up to the George Washington Bridge or, if in the mood for a boat trip, hop on the ferry to Staten Island. It’s always great to see the Statue of Liberty.

Liberty in the distance.

Liberty in the distance.

One day, I walked south on the Bowery. At the corner of Houston Street, like almost every block in the city, construction was going on. To protect against falling debris, a tarp overhang, bolted down by a mesh wire wall, had been erected, thereby creating a covered pedestrian walkway. I was about to cross the street when I noticed that the obliqueness of the early morning, eastern light created shadows on the sidewalk. When the wind blew against the wire mesh, it looked like ripples on a lake …

Sidewalk mesh.  Photo by Julie Seyler

… and the steel bars holding everything down reminded me of a Franz Kline painting:

Shadow lines on a sidewalk.  Photo by Julie Seyler

I kept walking south, and came upon a grand old building supported by columns in a Greek Corinthian style, and decorated all over with ornate floral fretwork, which seems to be a ubiquitous characteristic of 19th century architecture.

The Bowery Savings Bank

The Bowery Savings Bank.

It was the Bowery Savings Bank Building, completed in 1895 by the firm of McKim, Mead and White. It had been designated a New York City landmark back in 1966. The architects had even taken into account the ground one stood on before entering the imposing doors of the bank. Red and white mosaic tile had been laid down in a checkered pattern. It framed a red vine with sprouting leaves. Given the speckled concrete floors that support modern commercial buildings, it seemed so exotic despite its somewhat battered condition.

Mosaic tile.  Bowery Savings Bank.

Mosaic tile. Bowery Savings Bank.

At Canal Street, I turned around and headed back uptown. The tenement buildings remained a testament to the city that once was. Slowly, they will be torn down, and replaced with glass boxes. That is the history of New York. Each generation makes its mark, and with it a little more architectural history is stripped away. I snapped this photo in memory of all the long lost fire escapes.

Fire escape confusion

Fire escape confusion.